Just today I was over at a friend's house and as I said "no thank you" to the offer of coffee, I casually mentioned we had just started a special diet. She asked which one, and (as a mom of children with special needs) when I said the GAPS diet, she responded with a knowing "Ohhh. I've heard of it, but it's way too intense for me."
Yes, I agree. It really is intense. And work intensive. But thankfully, still entirely possible!
I'm sure it helps that we've done umpteen special diets since I first became interested in nutrition about 7 or 8 years ago. Raw diets, vegetarian diets, the Maker's Diet, the Nourishing Traditions/Weston Price diet (our usual diet, which I often write about), gluten and dairy free diets... we've done it all.
Still, the GAPS diet was daunting even for me when I first began learning about it. I firmly believed that is was an excellent diet with significant benefits, and also that it would benefit our family in particular. Even so, it still took me a month or two of studying it to warm up to the idea of doing it.
We did it for two months last spring and were thrilled with the results. We stopped (a bit sadly) because we were preparing to move, trying to publish my book and launch a new website, and it was all just too much for me. I then took another 7 months off of it, as I dealt with an overloaded schedule, which led to burnout, depression and fatigue.
Now, after many months of desiring to get back onto the GAPS diet, we've made the leap and started up again. This time, however, I was much more prepared to do it than I was the first time. I remembered the initial days of hunger and frustration on the Intro diet. I remembered all of the kitchen work and food prep required. I remembered the bizarre shopping carts full of squash, apples and the like.
It's So Much Easier When You're Prepared
For the two weeks leading up to our GAPS start date, I've been slowly but steadily making preparations that have already made our re-introduction far smoother than last time.
Here are my suggestions for getting ready to go on GAPS (or SCD or the Maker's Diet or any other grain-free and different-than-normal diet):
Stock your freezer with bone broth.
I spent a day making 3 huge stock pots of beef bone broth (yes, 3!) and then the next day when it was cool, removed the beef tallow and stored all the broth in glass mason jars in my freezer. A few days later, I made a whole bunch of chicken broth and did the same. I think I made about 30 quarts of broth. You might think that's excessive, but for a family of 5 on GAPS, it's not at all.
Image by missmeng
Stock up on squash, then cook it or peel and chop, then freeze it.
At the market earlier this month, I picked up 3 large buttercup squash, 4 butternut squash, and 4 spaghetti squash (the cashier looked at me and said, "wow, you must really like squash!"). With the buttercup squash, I baked it in the oven, and when it was cool I scooped out all the soft flesh into a bowl, then divided it up into bags of about 1 cup each. This is perfect for making meatballs, squash "pancakes", adding to soup, etc.
With the butternut squash, I peeled it all and then chopped it into french fry shaped pieces. These I froze in large ziploc bags, and they will make lunches and dinners so much easier with our beloved squash fries. The spaghetti squash we like to eat with a tomato and meat sauce.
Fill your freezer with grass-fed meats and poultry.
At the end of December, I got a new partial side of grass-fed beef. I still had just a couple whole chickens left in the freezer, as well as extra carcasses for broth. Then I went and spent almost $100 on nitrate-free, grass-fed sausages, bacon, etc. Now I just need to go pick up some extra fish. To stay full on GAPS, you will need to eat a lot of meat and fish, probably some at almost every meal.
Pre-cook that meat and freeze it in meal-sized packages.
I did a delicious (huge) roast in the crockpot, and froze all of the leftovers into bags of about 1 or 1 1/2 cups of chopped meat. I pre-cooked 4 lbs of ground beef and froze them in the same size amounts. I pre-cooked a whole chicken and froze 4 bags of chopped chicken. Tomorrow I'm making squash meatballs to freeze as well.
Peel and freeze apples
One of the first foods that we start eating on the diet (after the initial soups) is cooked apples. I fry them in a pan with no oil, and just a few tablespoons of water, with a lid over them. They take about 3-6 minutes to soften nicely. I sprinkle just a touch of cinnamon on them towards the end. They're our favorite treat in the beginning when we can eat nothing else, and they're nice for breakfast with eggs. I make the prep much easier by peeling and slicing a lot of apples for the freezer all at once. These can also be quickly cooked into applesauce, if desired.
Blow all your money at the produce market.
This isn't quite true, but almost. I usually spend $35 every two weeks on the bulk of our produce. This last time, I spent $100. Granted, that included a big box 20 lb box of apples, 25 lbs of organic carrots, and all those squash (and, I didn't spend much on so many of the usual foods that we eat). I also purchased a mammoth supply of Intro-friendly vegetables to add to soups and stews, like zucchini, onions, leeks, celeriac or celery root (again, a nice celery substitute), turnips, parsnips, cucumber, beets, cauliflower, etc.
Make soups for the freezer.
If you have the time to do this at all, it's a great idea. Making soup from scratch can take a while, when you need to chop everything up and let it simmer. Make a batch or two in advance so that you have some you can simply thaw for busy days or when you're running low on time. Shortly before we began, I made a large pot of Hamburger Soup (a new recipe I came up with that the entire family loved, to be posted soon!) and it helped to make those early (read: hungry) days easier.
Soak and dehydrate nuts and seeds.
This isn't very time consuming, but it does take several days to do it. One day to soak them, another to dehydrate them. Doing it in advance, when you have a few extra moments in the kitchen will save stress later on.
Make or buy fermented foods like sauerkraut.
We're using a mix of homemade and store-bought. This summer I made a nice big batch of cortido, a Latin-American version of sauerkraut which we all enjoy a lot. We've got lacto-fermented dill pickles left from the summer. I've also purchased two other jars of sauerkraut, to keep things simple. We really like Bubbie's, and also a new brand called Pickled Planet (our favorite is the Dill E Gent flavor-- so good!)
Above All Else... Meal Plan
One of the hardest things about restrictive diets is the frequent hunger that strikes early on, and those desperate feelings of searching through the fridge and cupboards thinking "There's nothing I can eat!".
Here's how I like to meal plan for times like these:
1. Find recipes that look appealing, or ones from my current stash that will work or could be altered.
Grab a scrap piece of paper and write down every possible meal idea or recipe you can come up with (seriously, everything). Scour some websites or blogs for ideas (a few favorites with GAPS friendly recipes include Nourishing Days, Health, Home and Happiness, Pecan Bread and GAPS Guide, and see this post with some of my own ideas and recipes we used).
2. Plan out at least one week (two is even better) with all breakfasts, lunches and dinners, and even snacks.
I don't always plan breakfasts and lunches when we're eating our usual diet (I go back and forth, sometimes I do, sometimes I don't). But, when we're embarking on any sort of special diet, I make a point of doing it, at least until the diet begins to feel more natural.
Don't be afraid of re-using some of the same meal ideas multiple times. It's pretty normal when your choices are limited. Try to come up with creative ideas for eating the same foods in unique ways. Eating eggs for every breakfast? Have them fried one day, scrambled with sauerkraut the next, make a veggie omelet another day.
Ready, Set, Go!
When you know what you're going to eat for each meal and you have many of the components of your meal already prepped, making it through the beginnings of a special diet like GAPS isn't really that bad at all.
And even if you're not on GAPS or any other diet, this type of food prep and meal planning always helps to make meals flow easier when you're a busy mama!